Imagine sitting in darkness all night. No Netflix. No Alexa. Just darkness. That’s life for many people in Lagos, Nigeria. Rolling power outages will sweep through the city and leave it dark for days. How are you supposed to run a business when you don’t have electricity? Just think about that the next time you yell at Siri for not turning on your lights the first time you ask.
Last week we had our first Disrupt Tech event in San Francisco, and we had a great turnout. People from all different kinds of backgrounds – different ethnicities, different industries, different lifestyles, different beliefs – came together to discuss Africa. Yeah, that’s right. Africa. Why did a bunch of people in Silicon Valley get together to discuss a continent that’s a world away? Why did we choose Africa as the topic in the first place?
First off, we realized that there are a lot of incredible people out here in Silicon Valley that want to do a lot of good. They’re tired of thinking about how to use technology to show more ads to people. Moreover, they recognize the potential of technology to solve so many of the problems around the world today. We really wanted to get these people thinking beyond the tech industry, even beyond themselves. We wanted to put them out of their comfort zones. So we picked Africa.
Not only did we select Africa as the topic, but we brought in the man who is working on bridging the gap between Silicon Valley and Africa to speak about his experiences. Yonas Beshawred is the son of two Ethiopians and currently the founder of a tech knowledge-sharing company called StackShare. He was in the founding class of the Harambe Entrepreneurship Alliance, a network of over 250 African entrepreneurs from top universities across the world who are using entrepreneurship to transform the African economy. He continually emphasized how much impact can be made through tech by giving examples of African startups like Andela that were literally changing countries. Then he challenged the rest of us: what can we here in Silicon Valley do?
Everyone immediately rose to the challenge. From implementing distributed electricity systems (using solar technology) to creating new means of seed capital, the event buzzed with different ideas. The people gathered were no longer constrained to talking about tech focused on just helping the Silicon Valley elites. They were beginning to see the wide-ranging possibilities that tech and entrepreneurship could be used for around the world. They were beginning to see how to disrupt tech.
My name is Seve Esparrago, and I was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. I studied Math with Computer Science at MIT (class of 2016) and also played football there (wide receiver). I’ve tried starting my own companies and currently I’m working as a product engineer at Scalable Press.